Metallica may be re-releasing their back catalog and playing a handful of concerts this summer, but those things are not getting in the way of making a new album. "We are fucking in it," drummer Lars Ulrich emphatically tells Rolling Stone. "We've got lots of songs, and we're honing them and tweaking them. It's pretty close."
Metallica have written close to 20 new songs for the upcoming album, which will follow up 2008's Death Magnetic, and will likely enter the pre-production recording phase in the near future. When asked whether or not fans could expect new songs from the group on its upcoming run of spring and summer concerts – the only U.S. date of which will be at the Rock in Rio festival in Las Vegas on May 9th – the drummer says, "I hope so. Absolutely."
The one thing he assures, at least at this point in time, is that Metallica are not planning on pulling a Beyoncé- or U2-style surprise release. "Right now, it's not like we're going to do one of those things where we'll just give it to iTunes on Thursday without telling anybody," he says. "That's not in the cards."
As Metallica sort through what Ulrich calls the "bits and bobs"— things like musical transitions within songs — they are planning on trying some new things with the album. "In our world, there's been a distinct difference between the creative phase and the recording phase," he says. "With this project, we're trying to bridge the two a little more organically and not have there be such a great divide between the processes. We want to see if we can bring some of the creative curiosity, the impulsive stuff that happens when you're first playing a song into the studio.
"You want to tweak it and get it good, but you also want to record it in a way where it doesn't feel labored over and overthought," he continues. "We're trying to figure out where that line is."
The group has not yet finalized who will produce the album.
One thing that encouraged Ulrich recently was rediscovering Metallica's most recent single, "Lords of Summer," which the band premiered on tour last year. "I was flipping around on iTunes and somehow ended up looking up Metallica," he says. "I heard 30 seconds of 'Lords of Summer' on the preview, and I was like, 'Wow, it actually sounds pretty good.' I hadn't remembered it since we played it last, and I was like, 'It's not so bad.'"
Ultimately, Ulrich's message to fans is to be patient. "The creative elements are getting close to being done," the drummer says. "Just remember, this is still 'Metallica time.' When I say we're close to being done, it means the next month or so. There's a lot of stuff going on as life continues with family and personal events.... But we are certainly down there [writing] pretty much every day."